It is important that we develop an attitude of gratitude for many reasons. Practicing gratitude will improve our emotional health as well providing other health benefits as well. The following article was written as I was thinking about Thanksgiving and the real meaning of “thanks-giving.”
As people across the country gathered this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, research is proving that cultivating an attitude of gratitude and expressing those feelings every day can rewire your emotional system as well as provide other benefits that are nothing short of amazing.
Psychologists and researchers agree that being in a state of gratitude is like hitting the re-set button on your entire emotional system. Michael McCullough, a University of Miami psychology professor, says “When you are stopping and counting your blessings, you are sort of hijacking your emotional system.” Your brain chemistry changes and you feel an enhanced sense of emotional well-being and are able to see everything in a more positive frame. “It does make people happier,” says McCullough.
Gratitude derives from the Latin word “Gratus,” meaning pleasing and agreeable. Dr. Wayne Dyer defines the nature of gratitude as “the complete and full response of the human heart to everything in the Universe. It is an absence of feeling alienated or separate. It represents our full acknowledgment and appreciation of the energy flowing through all things, and brings gifts to us in the form of the fulfillment of our desires. Gratitude is the way we experience the world with love rather than judgment.”
When we are grateful, we acknowledge that nothing is to be taken for granted, and that we are connected to all things everywhere. We feel complete, and see ourselves more clearly. By giving thanks we send out a form of loving energy to the world as well as to the Creative force in all things, reflecting our interconnectedness and allowing more of what we desire into our lives.
Being in a state of gratitude helps you focus on what you have, not what is missing, thereby reducing stress and allowing life to flow more easily. Robert Emmons, a University of California at Davis psychology professor has found that “Grateful people feel more alert, alive, interested, and enthusiastic. Gratitude also serves as a stress buffer, and grateful people are less likely to experience envy, anger, resentment, regret and other unpleasant states that produce stress.”
There are many physiological benefits of gratitude as well. The Heartmath Institute has proven “that positive emotions such as gratitude create harmony in the heart’s rhythms and the nervous system. Other bodily functions sync up to this rhythm, which is called coherence. Coherence has many powerful and positive benefits such as increased mental clarity, creativity, resourcefulness, and functioning of the cortex is measurably improved.” The physiology of gratitude also allows for a deeper sense of peace and well-being, increased vitality, heightened perception and sensations, increased longevity, improved decision-making and problem solving, and better overall physical and emotional health.
The opposite is true, however, when you are in a state of “lack.” By focusing on what you don’t have, you are saying that you are not grateful for all that you do have and depreciate your life. You experience the world from judgment rather than from love. In essence, you are blocking your connection with life force which can lead to resentment, animosity, and negativity. These negative emotions can create “dis-ease,” resulting in physical and psychological illnesses.
Unfortunately, society as a whole tends to focus on the negatives in life. Americans are less happy today than they were several decades ago. Many people spend their energy creating what they don’t want in life through complaining, finding fault, and focusing on what is wrong. By focusing on negatives, a form of resistance is created which is detrimental to emotional well-being and serves to perpetuate the negative patterns all around.
By cultivating an attitude of gratitude, however, the resistance is eliminated and there is opportunity for positive growth and transformation. You begin to understand that you have control in your life and can change your life by changing your attitude and thoughts. You truly can “be the change you want to see in the world.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
But how do you cultivate an “attitude of gratitude?” It requires daily practice and attention to your thoughts, and you must genuinely feel the emotions, allowing them to radiate out from you. You cannot just be grateful one day a year and expect results. Focus on all that you are and all that you have, and always begin and end your days with gratitude and “thanks-giving.”
The more you practice, the easier it will become and you will find gratitude becoming a more prominent part of your thought processes. Remember, too, that gratitude is being thankful even when things don’t appear to be as we would want them to be. “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, and a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” (Melody Beattie)
Life is precious, so be grateful you are here to experience it.
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